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LRC Blog

January 22, 2010

Jonathan Slocum

Sorting IE Terms by Meaning

N.B. The email exchange below may have been edited, e.g. to remove content not essential to the main point(s) or to standardize English spelling/grammar.

Query

...I can only wonder why no lexicon sorts the Indo-European terms by meaning.

F. K.

Response

Doing this is difficult, in that it may be hard for a reader to guess or predict what English word(s) may have been selected to represent meanings; despite this, we DO "sort the Indo-European terms by meaning." On our page Indo-European Lexicon: Pokorny Master PIE Etyma, click the "Semantic Index" link on the left, and drill down two levels... The 1st set of "(3) (2) (1)" links on a line [2 levels down] leads to an etymon in a Pokorny Master PIE table; any 2nd set of "(3) (2) (1)" links on such a [semantic category] line leads to a collection of IE reflex words derived from said etymon.

The words used in our index terms are from Carl Darling Buck's A Dictionary of Selected Synonyms in the Principal Indo-European Languages (U. Chicago Press, 1949). But whereas Buck indexed reflex words by their [evolved] meanings, we index PIE roots directly and allow their reflexes to fall, rightly or wrongly, into the same semantic field/category as the root.

P.S. (July 21) As implied above, Buck sorted Indo-European terms by their meanings; in his case these terms were reflex words, not the PIE etyma themselves. In the Encyclopedia of Indo-European Culture by J.P. Mallory and D.Q. Adams, eds. (1997), PIE etyma are discussed in articles that deal with their meanings -- said articles being listed alphabetically according to the English meaning terms Mallory and Adams select, e.g. GRASS, MAKE, or STIFF.

J. S.